The state of rugby video games in the year 2016 is unacceptable.
Why is it that when a nostalgic gamer brushes the dust off an old console and fires up a football game from 20 years ago, he instantly realises how simple and basic things used to be, but if a rugby fan does it, he's looking at the peak of the sub-genre?
Jonah Lomu Rugby, the first EA Sports Rugby game released on Playstation 2, and Rugby 08 were all absolutely fantastic games that are not only still remembered fondly today, but are still played. They are played because there is nothing else that comes close to replicating the sport of rugby union than these dated but entertaining games.
Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympics is the latest in a shameless money-spinning series designed to capitalise on the hype surrounding each summer or winter games. But it's fun.
Like almost every game designed for the Nintento Wii, playing the rugby sevens game as part of the 2016 Olympics package is a bit of a laugh with friends, which makes it, by far, the standout title available for the sport.
And honestly, it's not even that good.
This isn't a listicle to rattle off reasons why you need to pick Dr.Robotnik and Princess Peach and make them run around playing a game that vaguely looks like the half-time minis games you'll see at provincial matches, but rather a rant at how pathetic rugby games are in 2016.
If you wanted to purchase a rugby union game in the year 2016, these are the latest games available to you.
Rugby Challenge 3
The latest in the steaming pile of shite that is the 'Rugby Challenge' series, after the great name of Jonah Lomu Rugby was sullied by 'Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge', and 'Rugby Challenge 2' the orphan child of a sequel that nobody wanted, comes another painfully poor game that just is not fun to play in any way.
It is almost identical to the games released before it, with some areas of the game actually resembling rugby and, shockingly, being briefly enjoyable, and then a prop throws a 35-yard cross-field offload right into the winger's chest.
The game should be called 'Offload Challenge 3'.
The addition of not only a Sevens mode, but amazingly, a Be A Pro mode as well meant I was extremely interested in this game, as by committing to such leaps in terms of offering different modes, surely they were confident that they had cracked the gameplay? No.
The game mode (Be A Pro, controlling one player on a team of 15) was delivered, and it wasn't worth playing.
Everybody who worked on this game must have absolutely hated it. There is no way that a rugby fan could have played this game in testing and given it any sort of positive response.
We tried to play this game in the office when it was released last year, and not only was it confusing, but the mechanics fundamentally didn't work. Rucks could take upwards of 30 seconds while you mindlessly try to turn the ball over, defying all laws of rugby and, indeed, physics. I brought the game home to give it some time to see if there was a game there, and there simply wasn't.
The animations are blockier than Jona Lomu Rugby's were, the kicking game is total dogshit, and a simple pass to either side is rolling a dice to see which one of the 14 teammates on the pitch you will launch the ball in the general direction of.
It's a baffling experience. The lazniess is best summed up by the utterly bemusing player names, which would have Alfredo Hildebrand and Andrea Rosales in the back-line for Ireland.
Rugby World Cup 2015
Ah yes, the obligatory tournament tie-in for a sport that doesn't pull in enough numbers for EA Sports, the first thing you'll notice about this game is that it's very similar to Rugby 08.
In fact, it's so similar to Rugby 08 that I would guess it is the same game with a slightly enhanced graphical lift, although for a PS4/Xbox One game it looks extremely poor. Also, all most people want in a rugby game is Rugby 08 with better graphics, yet this manages to make that same gameplay less enjoyable and, comically, less deep.
And it doesn't even have the real players' names. An official tournament game, and it doesn't have real player names. That is a joke.
So where can we go from here?
It's obvious that the only publisher that can oversee a successful rugby game is EA Sports. Rugby 08 was the last acceptable game in the sub-genre, and it was more than acceptable, it was really good.
But that was the last one. Since then EA Sports have completely scrapped the idea of rugby being worth their time, which is another thing that completely baffles me. Is there no market for a rugby game? A really big, "THIS IS THE RUGBY GAME YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR" type of rugby game.
Jonah Lomu Rugby showed us that if a rugby game is done properly, it will sell. The reason rugby games don't sell any more is because everyone expects them to be crap, and when they eventually try them they turns out worse than they expected.
Are you telling me that if EA Sports got behind rugby and properly dedicated a team to making the best experience available, a truly "next-gen" experience with licences, graphics, and fluid animations, while sorting out the set-pieces so every ruck doesn't involve a mini-game... That it wouldn't top the charts in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and not to mention the USA where a professional league has just been launched?
Come on. The numbers would be there if there was a product worth our time.
Rugby union is by far the biggest sport that does not have a decent video game made for it. Rugby fans are being starved in a time where there is absolutely no reason for being short on titles.
But hey, there's always Mario and Sonic rugby sevens at Rio 2016!